Dings glass with fork. Ahem. I just offer this up politely, deferentially, in case it may be of interest to just one or two people out there, even though I recognise the
lost-tampon kind of personal essay is considered deeply undignified and passe these days. Mea culpa. If it's not for you, honey, flip the page, go back to reading about politics. There's certainly plenty of that. (Not an auspicious opening, but.) The thing is, I think I've worked something out.
First of all I thought the trick was to love yourself. Who can argue with that? I read all those self-helpy gurus illustrated with pictures of women laughing alone with salad: be your own best friend, sister! Light a freaking scented candle! And for a minute it seemed like I had got it. Except it was impossible to love myself because, well, reasons. I have messy kitchen drawers and thighs that rub together at the top.
Then I realised that you need to love yourself despite having thighs that rub together at the top. (I've cleaned my drawers, temporary reprieve) Eureka!
So I wrote the word "regardless" in my journal surrounded by sparkly cat stickers. Love yourself regardless of your flaws. This worked for a little bit, then this good feeling started slipping away too. Because sometimes I was an actual asshat, and I let my houseplants die and drank too much and the parking ticket thing, and well all my many and varied failings as a mother, until there really weren't any uncontaminated bits left to love. There was no salad and no candles. And then I got angry at myself for failing yet again.
Yeah well, now I think a bit differently.
I watched this TV show, called Top of the Lake: China Girl, Jane Campion's latest work. There is a character in it, a 17-year-old girl called Mary who has my kind of thighs. She hates her mother, hits herself in the face and falls calamitously in love with a seedy Pete Doherty-style reprobate called Puss. I love everything about her, even though pretty similar characteristics in myself made me hate myself. She was like me at that age, except I can feel compassion for her, and I never could for myself. Like her, I was not at ease in straight society. If I could love Mary for her flaws, why couldn't I do the same for myself?
Turns out the trick is learning to love yourself, not regardless of the thighs and the asshatness and the drinking, but to love yourself for precisely those things.
Loving yourself means loving even the fact you find it hard to love yourself. Loving all the things that are hardest to love. (Sometimes children can help us see this, because we can love them fiercely for all the things they can't love in themselves.)
Love your rage and resistance to being loved. Love your cellulite. Love your window fixed with duct tape. Love your facial hair. Love your inappropriate sexual fantasies. Love the reasons why you think you don't deserve love.
Love that you can never finish Infinite Jest or even start Proust. Love your flat feet. And that you'll never be a ballerina or have some superpower talent. (A few days ago our son announced he copes pretty well with his disability. I said "What disability?" He said: "Not being able to do the splits.") Love that you are broken. Love that you're never going to do the splits.
Love that you feel fear about writing this column, yet again. Love that you love the thing that you can't love. (It's Love-ception!) Love that you need to learn the same thing over and over. Love being too much, too slutty, too loud; your surfeit of consciousness that is sometimes too big to find a container strong enough to hold it. Love your persecutory voice, your compulsions, your failures. Love your wound.
The wound is the deepest, human part of you that most needs love. It is part of you that has been cut off from you and wants to come home. The way to heal your wound is not to try to avoid it, excuse it or numb it with whatever. It's to love it. It is where your goodness lies.
If you've hung out with me all the way through this column to here - despite the kind of ickiness of talking about this stuff (love that!), do feel free to go back to the politics now. Personally, I wish that whatever party forms our next government will help us love our most wounded when they can't love themselves.